Free Trials

Download a free trial to find out which Altium software best suits your needs

How to Buy

Contact your local sales office to get started on improving your design environment

Downloads

Download the latest in PCB design and EDA software

  • PCB DESIGN SOFTWARE
  • Altium Designer

    Complete Environment for Schematic + Layout

  • CircuitStudio

    Entry Level, Professional PCB Design Tool

  • CircuitMaker

    Community Based PCB Design Tool

  • NEXUS

    Agile PCB Design For Teams

  • CLOUD PLATFORM
  • Altium 365

    Connecting PCB Design to the Manufacturing Floor

  • COMPONENT MANAGEMENT
  • Altium Concord Pro

    Complete Solution for Library Management

  • Octopart

    Extensive, Easy-to-Use Component Database

  • PRODUCT EXTENSIONS
  • PDN Analyzer

    Natural and Effortless Power Distribution Network Analysis

  • See All Extensions
  • EMBEDDED
  • TASKING

    World-Renowned Technology for Embedded Systems Development

  • TRAININGS
  • Live Courses

    Learn best practices with instructional training available worldwide

  • On-Demand Courses

    Gain comprehensive knowledge without leaving your home or office

  • ONLINE VIEWER
  • Altium 365 Viewer

    View & Share electronic designs in your browser

  • Altium Designer 20

    The most powerful, modern and easy-to-use PCB design tool for professional use

    ALTIUMLIVE

    Annual PCB Design Summit

    • Forum

      Where Altium users and enthusiasts can interact with each other

    • Blog

      Our blog about things that interest us and hopefully you too

    • Ideas

      Submit ideas and vote for new features you want in Altium tools

    • Bug Crunch

      Help make the software better by submitting bugs and voting on what's important

    • Wall

      A stream of events on AltiumLive you follow by participating in or subscribing to

    • Beta Program

      Information about participating in our Beta program and getting early access to Altium tools

    All Resources

    Explore the latest content from blog posts to social media and technical white papers gathered together for your convenience

    Downloads

    Take a look at what download options are available to best suit your needs

    How to Buy

    Contact your local sales office to get started improving your design environment

    • Documentation

      The documentation area is where you can find extensive, versioned information about our software online, for free.

    • Training & Events

      View the schedule and register for training events all around the world and online

    • Design Content

      Browse our vast library of free design content including components, templates and reference designs

    • Webinars

      Attend a live webinar online or get instant access to our on demand series of webinars

    • Support

      Get your questions answered with our variety of direct support and self-service options

    • Technical Papers

      Stay up to date with the latest technology and industry trends with our complete collection of technical white papers.

    • Video Library

      Quick and to-the-point video tutorials to get you started with Altium Designer

    Why You Should Use PCB Assembly Variants for Multiple Design Configurations

    Altium Designer
    |  August 27, 2017

    Transistor variant picture

    Years ago I was working on a design that had been copied from an existing board, but there was a problem. A few of the circuits on my layout didn’t match what the engineer had in his schematic. This generated a lot of confusion. We eventually tracked the problem down to some edits that had been made to the board after the design had been approved and sent to fabrication. An inadvertent change to the board while creating an assembly variation had thrown it out of synch with the schematic. Problems like this can creep in during manual efforts to control assembly variants. This can cause designs to be delayed, or even worse an error that goes undetected resulting in a bad board build.

    What are PCB assembly variants and why are they necessary?

    It is a practice to design a board so that the same board can be configured differently during assembly for multiple applications. These different configurations are known as assembly variants. An example of this would be designing a power supply board that could be made to operate at different voltages. By changing which are used, not used, or even altered, during the assembly will determine how the different versions of the power supply board are created.

    When designing a board intended for assembly variants, it is important that the metal circuitry (pads, traces, area fills, etc.) be laid out so that they work for all of the proposed configurations. This way the different configurations can all be built from the same raw board design. Not only does this reduce your workload, but it can reduce board fabrication and inventory costs.

    PCB documentation picture
    Each PCB assembly variant requires documentation

    Problems with manually creating and documenting assembly variants

    Originally, PCB designers had to create a separate design database to support each board assembly configuration when working with multiple variants. This is because each assembly requires its own documentation; however, this method also introduced the possibility of design errors.

    Since each separate design database contains the raw board design, it is replicated throughout all the variant databases. While it is a good design practice is to have one master copy of a raw board design, it can be problematic when this master copy is included in each variant copy. This is because if the raw board design is altered in one variant copy, even if it is an accident, you will end up with different copies of the raw board design. Then you might not be able to tell which one is correct. Obviously, this is an issue when your raw board is the base design for all the different assembly variants. This gets even worse if a modification results in a broken connection with the schematic, like what I experienced many years ago.

    At the end of the day, these potential issues and managing multiple copies of the same design database increases your workload. Each time a raw board is intentionally modified, those edits have to be copied into each variant database. This is time-consuming and requires immense focus to ensure that design integrity is maintained between the databases.

    PCB assembly line picture
    PCB assembly variants allow the same board to be configured for different applications

    Using a variant manager to simplify the process

    A variant manager in your CAD application will simplify the process of creating and managing different assembly variants by allowing you to do all the work within one base database. When you create a variant you will be able to designate certain to be used, not used, or changed in value. The variant manager will also give you the ability to change outputs like assembly drawing shapes, and the bill of materials to reflect the status of altered .

    Additionally, you can create multiple assembly variants within the main design database. This completely eliminates the problems of managing multiple databases and the errors that come with them. Most importantly, it keeps your workload in check.

    Using a variant manager within your CAD application will be a great asset if you are in the business of creating multiple assembly configurations. It will reduce the possibility of errors and ease your workload, give you a better overall view of what you are designing, and let you store all variations within the same database. Professional PCB design software, like Altium Designer®, can help get you started with this.

    Have a question about assembly variants? Talk to an expert at Altium.

     

    Check out Altium in action...

    Hierarchical & Multi-Channel Design

    About Author

    About Author

    PCB Design Tools for Electronics Design and DFM. Information for EDA Leaders.

    most recent articles

    Back to Home